'We fell in love watching Scotland play France 50 years ago'

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Media caption,

Evelyn and Jean said love blossomed after the chance meeting at the match

History will be made at Murrayfield this Sunday, but not necessarily the rugby kind.

Fifty years ago a rugby-mad Frenchman forgot his gloves and asked a young Scottish woman to help him load his camera.

Fast forward five decades and the pair are still happily married, with two children.

Jean Bernardi and Evelyn Swankie will return to the stand to watch France play Scotland once more.

The couple's granddaughter Nina wrote to Scottish Rugby to tell them about this great love story and the pair will be special guests at the Murrayfield match.

When 23-year-old railway worker Jean Bernardi met 21-year-old Fife art student Evelyn Swankie, it was love at first sight.

Fate brought Evelyn to her first rugby match - Scotland v France - in 1968.

Image caption,
The couple still have keepsakes from the day they met 50 years ago

She told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie Show: "I ended up at the game because I was at art college in Edinburgh and friends went to the game

"Someone wasn't going and I went in their place in the last moment."

Jean was a big rugby fan, so it was no surprise he ended up at the home of Scottish rugby: "I come from the south-west of France where of course it's big rugby territory.

"We used to go with friends to follow the internationals, we'd go to Paris and we went to Dublin the year before.

"In 1968 we went to Edinburgh.

"Two days before the game while crossing on the ferry from Calais to Dover, I was so so seasick I said: 'That's finished, I will never cross again on the ferry, I'll watch it at home'.

"And then I met Evelyn and that was it - I forgot about sickness and dying on the ferry!"

'Lovely smile'

Evelyn explained the moment they met: "Jean had a camera and he couldn't fix it because his hands were so cold.

"So he asked if I could help with his camera."

Jean jumped in: "It was true, I had no gloves on.

"I moved a few rows down to film and I turned to her and asked if she minded helping and I just looked at her and that was that!"

Jean says he fell immediately for her eyes and her "lovely smile".

After the game, the pair got all their friends together for food and drinks and ended up at a party in a friend's flat.

Image caption,
The couple were married within a year

Jean said: "I spoke to her friends about the rugby game but I was not really interested, I was just wondering about her."

Jean returned to Bergerac, bought a French - English dictionary and started writing.

Two months later when his friends went to see France try for a Grand Slam in Cardiff, Jean headed to Scotland where they became an item.

That Christmas the pair got engaged - on the ferry to France of course - and they got married the following summer.

Jean still has his old passport, well-used from all his trips to the UK.

He said: "You can see in my old passport the Dover stamp where I said I would never cross again - but then you can see over 100 stamps - Dover, Gatwick, Folkestone, Dieppe - the whole passport is full!"

The couple have lived in Dunfermline, London and then retired to Bergerac in 2010.

They have two sons, Pierre and Jean-Luc.

When the SRU read granddaughter Nina's letter they immediately invited the couple to come and mark the 50th anniversary of their first meeting.

A spokesman said: "When we first heard about Jean and Evelyn we had no hesitation in extending an invitation for them to return.

"We are looking forward to hosting them on the day and treating them to some VIP experiences to help them celebrate."

Image caption,
Evelyn sees the day they met at Murrayfield as bigger than her wedding day

The couple are delighted and Evelyn said it will be a special moment: "The day at Murrayfield is always more special to us than our wedding day. It's the day we met and the wedding just followed from that."

Jean is looking forward to celebrating - but also to the rugby: "As long as the team plays well, it is fair if that team wins.

"As long as my team plays a good game, I am happy with that."

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